In a return to form after last week’s somewhat disjointed installment, episode five of Hannibal brings the focus of the show back to its beginnings, as the pressures of Will Graham’s (Hugh Dancy) life as a criminal profiler begin to take a more serious toll. With frictions beginning to emerge between him and his FBI boss Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), Will has only Hannibal (Mads Mikkelson) to confide in, a situation resulting in yet more delicious opportunities for Dr. Lecter to manipulate those who trust him.
In recent weeks, the attention of the show has leaned more towards the plight of Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), the traumatised daughter of episode one’s Garrett Jacob Hobbs, aka The Minnesota Shrike. Coquilles returns to the strong beginnings of the show with a look at how recent events have affected the principle character, Will Graham. Still haunted by his ability to fully understand the mechanisms of a killer’s mind, Will is struggling to keep up with the gruesome workload that continues to build. As usual, Coquilles delivers on the shock factor, as the grim discovery of a pair of bodies skinned and hung to look like angels marks the hunt for a new killer: The Angel Maker.
As each week passes and the killings get more imaginative, it is remarkable that Hannibal continues to stage its set piece murders with such horrific poise and lasting imagery. With the show confidently reliant on the acting chops of its stars, it would not be surprising for the rest of its elements to slip somewhat. However, the show produces imagery and design in such a uniquely dark and effective fashion to rival the attention given its characters.
With yet another slew of bloody killings causing Will more turmoil than usual, he turns to the no-so-calming presence of his therapist, Hannibal Lecter. Even in their few early interactions in the series, the scenes between Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelson were always the most interesting, and the multi-faceted conversations between the two in this episode are a thankful reminder of just how well cast the two leads are. Dancy plays the nervous energy of Will with huge control, giving the impression that he is only just holding on to the thoughts and urges inside him. The contrast between this and the supreme confidence of Mikkelson’s Hannibal is hugely enthralling, as at any point it feels as though Graham will discover the evil before him. Coquilles is brilliantly staged by director Guillermo Navarro to give Hannibal an over arching presence, manipulating Will against his boss Jack Crawford and sowing seeds of doubt.
This episode also adds to the cast by introducing Jack’s long suffering wife Bella, played by the hugely talented Gina Torres, as the couple joins Lecter for dinner. The writing truly favors Mikkelson here, giving him both the eloquence to forget his true nature, before delivering a stark reminder. However, the real success stems from the relationship between Crawford and his wife. It’s often the case that having an onscreen couple played by real life spouses adds very little, however this is not so in Hannibal. The married status of Lawrence Fishburne and Gina Torres adds something to the state of their onscreen relationship that would likely not be present otherwise, particularly due to the issues being addressed.
Whilst it could be said that in view of all the personal dramas making up the body of the series, the emphasis on the killings that spark each episode into action is lost, Coquilles does better to link the two together. With the memorable ‘mushroom killer’ as well as Ceuf’s deadly mother figure dispatched far too simply, this potential weakness of Hannibal is dealt with slightly better in episode five. These two elements seem more closely linked to mirror one another, whilst still making it clear that the mindsets of the main characters is more important than that of killers. Hannibal may not be as interested in the psychology of murderers as one might expect, but it could just be that this is not its aim, and with episodes such as Coquilles proving its ability, Hannibal is still gripping television.
Best Kill: The first discovery of the angelic corpses is beautifully horrific in its staging, adding yet another elegant tableaux to the show’s gruesome style.
Best Scene: In an episode of grisly murders and simmering psychology, the personal drama unfolding at the end ofCoquilles between Jack and his wife Bella steals the episode, in heart if not in spectacle.